He said: “Before my 13-year-old daughter Evie died, I had absolutely no concept of what it felt like to be depressed or so low that taking my own life could become an option. Recent events on the news about [the suicide of TV star] Caroline Flack have opened up the topic to a wider audience.
“It takes a major trauma in our lives for us to truly understand what that level of depression feels like. As a bereaved parent, the balancing act that we all perform can be precarious for much of the time – all made far more complex by the volatility of our emotions; those unpredictable triggers that come out of nowhere, and the thoughtlessness of people that were once considered to be friends.
“I have no idea what was going on inside Caroline Flack’s head, but for her to have reached such a point must have been a dreadful situation to face. Facebook is full of posts of women extolling each other to look out for each other, and not knock their crowns off: a laudable process but one which should not be confined to women.
“For every dead child, there is a bereaved father. He may be at home or living away. That doesn’t matter. His heart is equally broken, his life equally devastated. The fathers need to be cared about too. They need the support of friends and colleagues just as much.
“The Rainy Day Trust provides support to people working in the home improvement industry, which covers many of the construction trades. Two men every day in that sector take their own lives. That’s 730 men every year who face a life so lonely and depressed that ending it is their only option, for whatever reason. The pressures that take them to the edge of the abyss may be different from losing a child, but they are there nonetheless.
“I’m ‘lucky’ in that I have an outlet – writing – that allows me to vent, rage or just talk about what’s happening to me. I wrote in my book ‘Eggshells’ that there have been four occasions when I have quite literally stepped back from the edge. For me, writing is truly cathartic and it means that my close friends are aware of how I’m feeling and so can offer the support that I need.
“But too many bereaved fathers don’t have that outlet. They rely on friends and family to be aware, to watch and to intervene when it is needed. But what about the men out there in the industry facing their own demons? They don’t ask for help, and in many cases society expects them to just get on with it.
“Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it is precisely the opposite. It takes enormous strength to admit to yourself that you can’t cope. It takes even more to admit to those close to you that you can’t cope and that it is all too much. How much effort then does it take to admit to the world that you are struggling? I take antidepressants to survive. I am not embarrassed by it because the trauma of losing my daughter is just too much to work through without a bit of chemical help.
“It is all of our jobs to keep an eye on friends, whether they appear to be struggling or not. It is not just about being kind, but also about being ‘aware’, and then getting up off your backside and doing something about it. Don’t sit there and think that someone else will sort it, because they are most likely thinking exactly the same thing. When a bereaved Dad has taken his own life, it is too late. Be kind, be aware.
“The Rainy Day Trust has a counselling service that is free to all in the home improvement industry, accessible by telephone to suit your own needs. If you need face-to face counselling then we can help track that down for you, and even pay for it if you are on a low salary. For help, call 0203 192 0486.”
The Rainy Day Trust operates across four sectors (builders merchants, DIY, Garden Centres and Hardware and Housewares & Tabletop) which have a combined turnover of more than £50 billion and employ close to 500,000 people. It is the only charity which exists solely to help people who have worked in these industries, including DIY shops, hardware stores, builders merchants, garden centres and cookshops – and all the manufacturers, distributors and retailers in the UK who supply them. The charity grew out of two benevolent funds for the industry with roots back to 1843, and now offers a range of services to retail and supplier employees – from a regular cash payment to white goods and even house repairs.